More Nice than Naughty

In a world of absolutes, I prefer to view my life as a “mostly.” As in, I’ve been mostly eating well versus not. Or, I’ve been mostly helping out around the house. Or, I’ve been mostly exercising instead of sitting at the keyboard eating chocolate and drinking red wine. Okay, maybe that whole red wine/chocolate thing’s true, but still….

The point is, this time of year, we all know the drill. Santa only brings you a present if you’ve been good. And while I’ve been sometimes bad, I think I’ve been mostly good. See how that works? I figure Santa’s got a direct line on this whole good/bad thing, and would likely find out that I’ve not always been good, so why lie about it, right? Truth should get me extra points. *Nods head sagely* Doesn’t that make sense?

Anyhoo, my whole reason for being good centers around these babies:

Aren’t they pretty? I figure that since I’ve been mostly good, and didn’t lie about it, then maybe, just maybe, Santa will realize I deserve all three this year. Wish me luck! 🙂

Have a great weekend,

Christmas Catnip

Welcome to Take Me Back Thursday!

Like most cat lovers, we give our fur babies Christmas prezzies. Their most fave is catnip – natch. I’m thoroughly convinced kitties can smell catnip even through extra-thick layers of plastic. And once a kitty gets his hands on it, watch out! It’s instant kitty love! 🙂 These pics from last year’s Christmas is the latest in a long list of examples.

Memories like these are what make life so much fun!

Are your fur babies on your Christmas list?

Happy almost-Friday,

The Battle of the Gingerbread House

Welcome to Food and Wine Wednesday!

‘Tis the season of celebrating the beauty and wonder that is life, and those people and things we hold most dear. Not the least of which is the gingerbread house.

Tonight, Niece 2 decided that the two of us would face-off in a gingerbread decorating contest, one whose winner will hold bragging rights (of nearly unbearable proportions!). that clearly means more to one participant than the other (the other being me. Ha!).

We spent a fabulous evening together, talking. I learned that 1) Niece 2 has decided she’s no longer vegetarian, but will not consume a large amount of animal protein; 2) According to Niece 2, Nash Grier is still super-hot! (way more than I needed to know. Trust me on this…) 3) There’s not nearly enough candy that comes in the enclosed packets when a fifteen year-old is swiping at them while decorating (and when you’re not looking!). Just sayin’…

At the end of the evening, care to guess which side had been decorated by moi?

Gingerbread houses – yay or nay? Tell us what you think!

Happy gingerbread decorating,














And The Winner Is (Part 2) . . .

Welcome to Food and Wine Wednesday!

Last week, Niece and Niece 2 squared off in a pumpkin-carving contest. The winner had her choice of donut plus chocolate milk – trust me, this is a HUGE deal in the Alexander home! Thanks to those who left a comment, Niece 2 won. *Insert much cheering and a cartwheel or two*

But instead of happily choosing a donut and leaving her older sister donut-less she surprised me, and struck a deal for this, instead:

20141102_133702We brought the frozen rolls home (What? You didn’t think I’d make these puppies from scratch, did you?). After a short time in the oven the scent of cinnamon and baking bread wafted from one end of the house to the other – yummyliciousness! And, yeah, I gotta admit I was tempted….

Have your kids ever surprised you in a good way? Please share!

Happy Eating,


Looking Like a Gurrl!

Happy Fashionista Friday!

Most of my writing time is spent in comfy clothes because, let’s face it, when you spend *hours* on your butt with hands on the keyboard, comfort is key. There are occasions when my fave pair of worn sweats just doesn’t cut it, mainly when I have to leave the house.

On this particular trip, Niece and I shopped at our local Saturday Market. While I probably could’ve gotten away with said worn sweats, there are times when I really want to look like a girl. (What a surprise!) So here’s what I chose:

P1170547Skirt and blouse, and a hat to keep the sun off. A pair of my fave sandals, and I’m good to go.Simple pieces that make dressing easy. Who doesn’t love that? And on this trip, I even remembered to bring a tote for our purchases. Bonus!

Do you have fave go-to pieces?

Happy Friday,

Author Spotlight: Judith Ashley – On Writing

My Core Writing Principles, Going Indie and A Path to Brain Health
by Judith Ashley

The time was somewhere between 1998 and 2002. I started having lucid night and day dreams so real if I didn’t have the BeFunky_dsc_5115professional background I do, I might have thought I was psychotic. Instead of checking myself into the nearest psychiatric hospital, I started writing. Looking back I can see I had a lot to learn about the craft of writing but at the time I was mesmerized by the story unfolding almost on its own on the computer screen.

Way back then I determined the first two of my Core Writing Principles.

1. Enjoy the writing process at least 80% of the time.
2. Write the stories I see in my dreams.

Flash forward to 2006 and my first trip to Emerald City Writer’s Conference where I picked up Cherry Adair’s “Finish the Darn Book Challenge”. When I returned in 2007, I had finally completed Book One of The Sacred Women’s Circle series. I wrote the first drafts of Book Two and Book Three in successive years during November’s NaNo (National Novel Writing Month).

I entered a couple of contests and pitched the stories and series concept to editors and agents. I got “rejection gold” because every rejection had specific information about why they would not take my books and me on. The information was consistent. My stories were not financially viable as they were because they didn’t “fit”. (In the interest of transparency I will also admit that my writing needed work but that wasn’t the main reason I was being turned away).

One of my goals was to be published by the end of 2012. I wasn’t. I sat myself down and took a good hard look at where I was in relation to where I wanted to be. All of my rejections had one of two things in common lily1400x2100

• Eliminate the Sacred Women’s Circle thread and have the heroines be friends in another setting or
• Add conflict to The Circle scenes and between the heroines in general.

I was at a crossroads in my writing.

What was I going to do? Rewrite the stories to fit what agents and editors wanted or stay true to the visions that still floated into my awareness when I wrote. The third Core Writing Principle is the result of that soul searching process.

3. Stay true to the core elements of the stories.

Because I had that third Core Writing Principle, I reached for the gold ring on the indie publishing merry-go-round and chose the Indie Publishing Route.

Little did I know how challenged I’d be on this path!

First task: to take the suggestion of April Eberhard, agent, who said a professional editor would help me strengthen my story telling abilities. I did that.

Second task: Purchase Maggie McVay Lynch’s DIY Publishing, attend the November 2013 Kobo Event to learn more and pay closer attention to what was being said at chapter meetings, on blogs, RWA forums, etc. about self-publishing. I did that.

Third task: Purchase The Book Doctor’s template and Jutoh self-publishing software. I did that.

Crystals All I had to do was copy and paste a clean copy of each manuscript into the template, scroll through the story and add back in formatting, upload to Jutoh, click a few places and voila! I’d have the mobi, epub and pdf files to upload to various e-retailers.
The number of times I sat at my computer stomach churning with fears of failure, shoulders rigid with iron bars of doubt, hands fisting with frustration were numerous. The number of times I wanted to scream, throw the computer out the window and quit matched. The number of times I left my office and took a break from it all is why I’m writing this. Chocolate, walks around the block and the voices of the women in the stories kept me going – along with a personal tutorial from Maggie; additional help from Terrel Hoffman; gifts of chocolate, hugs and commiseration from Sarah Raplee; words of encouragement from my granddaughter who kept telling me how proud she was of me because I was following my dream.

Because of all that support I persevered. Because I stayed true to my core values (write the stories I see in my dreams and my writing journey must include at least 80% joy) and because I stayed true to my stories core values I can say I’m a multi-published author. During this journey Sarah Raplee, Diana McCollum and I joined forces and published Love & Magick: Mystical Stories of Romance (02/14/14). The first three books of The Sacred Women’s Circle series are published. Book Four’s first draft is 50% written.  elizabeth_ebookcover1400x2100

I was invited to join Windtree Press author cooperative, a talented group of committed career-focused writers; I’ve traveled to Desert Dreams Writer’s Conference and attended my first book signing; I’ve sold a few books and expect as I continue to write and publish and promote my work I’ll sell more.

Now for the “A Path to Brain Health” part of the title. A recent AARP article said that one out of every nine Americans sixty-five and older has Alzheimer’s. I’m in that age group. How does this relate to being an indie author? Doctors and scientists recommend these four supports for optimum brain health.

• Eat a brain healthy diet (no chocolate and Thai food alone are not what they suggest)
• Exercise (I think they mean more than fingers flying over the keyboard)
• Social interaction with others (and I can attest to the importance of the hugs and “you can do it” messages I received
• Stretch your brain by giving it something new to learn. (More than once I reminded myself that even though I was frustrated, fearful, doubtful, I was doing a good thing because my brain learned how to work in new and wondrous ways).

DIANA_ebookcover600x900Without that mantra, without the support of chocolate, Thai food and friends I wouldn’t be able to show you the covers of books, give you a link to my website where you can see them again and read more about The Sacred Women’s Circle series. If I hadn’t chosen to go the Indie Publishing Route, I’d have completed manuscripts in the drawer (actually folder on the computer and thumb drive) but I wouldn’t be published.

One of the hardest parts of this process was given up the dream of being a New York traditional published author. One of the easiest parts of the process was staying true to my core values which guide me to this day.

I’m always open to new ways of viewing the world around me. I’d love to hear what your Core Writing Principles are and how you motivate yourself through the tough times and steep learning curves.

Copyright © 2014 by Judith Ashley

Author Spotlight: Monica Knightley

One of the coolest things about being a writer are the awesome peeps I get to meet! Not only are they willing to share their experience, but on occasion they offer to come do your work for you – SSHHH. Please don’t tell! 😉 Monicas birthday 2013 018 - Version 4Soooo. . .. This week’s post comes from the lovely and talented Monica Knightley. Her debut novel, THE VAMPIRE’S PASSION, is hot off the press from Soul Mate Publishing.

Melia: Welcome, Monica!

Monica: Thank you for having me as a guest on your blog, Melia.

Melia: As a writer, if you could spend the day with one of the sexy heroes you’d created, who would it be and what would you do (besides the awesome sex part)? What part of his world would he share with you (besides the awesome sex part!).

Monica: I would spend my day with my brilliant, smoldering vampire, Gabriel Augustine, from The Vampire’s Passion. Once we came up for air from all the awesome sex, we would explore the English countryside. Gabriel is a professor at Oxford University and has called England home for over 200 years, so he would have plenty of romantic places to show me. Perhaps tea in an English garden, or a day exploring a castle. Then a relaxing weekend at his home in Scotland, overlooking the sea, and more awesome sex.

Melia: Love the premise for your debut book, THE VAMPIRE’S PASSION! Was there any one thing that inspired you to write it?

Monica: Ha ha!! Yes, indeed. A few years ago, my dear husband discovered that there are summer term classes that anyone with the $$$ can take at Oxford University on a variety of topics, including classes on my favorite author, Jane Austen. He wanted to send me, still does, but I always begged off due to the cost. One day I started fantasizing about such a class, and that’s when my smexy vampire, Gabriel, was created. One day I do plan to take one of these classes, but I have to first come to grips with the sad reality that it won’t be taught by a gorgeous vampire.

Melia: How do you balance writing with all the other things you have to do?

Monica: I wrote this book while teaching grade school full-time, so it was a clever balancing act. My typical day was: teach and all the after school classroom chores, workout, make/eat dinner, write for an hour, and collapse. There were days, however, when I was just too emotionally exhausted to be creative once I got home. That wasn’t fun. I also spent part of every weekend writing. I’m no longer teaching full-time, and sad to say, I am not nearly as disciplined with my schedule—it’s something I’m working on.

Melia: What advice would you give to writers just starting down the road towards publication?

Monica: Believe in yourself. Believe in your talent. Believe in your story.

My best answer to this question is to share a story from my own road to publishing. I originally sent the manuscript for The Vampire’s Passion to two small publishers. Both times it made its way through all the hoops and the editors both sent encouraging rejections—one more so than the other. The slightly less encouraging editor told me that since Ann Rice wrote her vampire books, authors have to create very different vampires and raise the stakes ever higher. I loved my vampire, Gabriel, and was disappointed by her comment. Less than a week later, Ann Rice posted on Twitter a link to a video she had made of advice to new writers. {Insert spooky music here} At minute 8:16, she said, “Any editor who rejects your book, doesn’t get it.” The irony that this was coming from the very author that the editor had used as an example seemed to me like a message from above. Really. I could hear the celestial choirs. Her 12 minutes of advice are excellent and VERY encouraging, and all new writers should watch it.

Melia: Tell us about “the call.” What was it like?

Monica: There was a lot of screaming and crying. My husband just kept nodding his head and saying, “I’m not surprised. I knew this was going to be the one.” After the two rejections mentioned above I sent it to one more publisher, Soul Mate, and they offered the contract. My enigmatic vampire, Gabriel Augustine, would have the chance to atone for his greatest sin and learn to love again. My heroine, Claire Seymour, would get to mend her broken heart after that nasty break up with her faithless fiancé. There would be a HEA!!

Melia: Please, tell us a bit about THE VAMPIRE’S PASSION! VampiresPassion400

Monica: Here’s the blurb – The enigmatic, ethereally handsome, aristocratic Gabriel Augustine, professor of Nineteenth Century English Literature at St. Giles College in Oxford, England, is a man with many secrets. And it is not his vampiric nature that is his most deeply held secret. Though few know he is vampire, not human, none know the horror that has haunted him throughout his long existence. He has spent centuries attempting to atone for his greatest sin.

Claire Seymour needs to forget her past. She is ready to embark on any journey that will move her away from the pain that has been her constant companion since discovering her fiancé with her best friend. Four weeks at the University of Oxford, in a class on her favorite author, Jane Austen, seems like a good place to start.

Neither is prepared for the other.

Melia: Thank you, Monica!

There you have it, peeps! Click on over to Amazon for your copy of THE VAMPIRE’S PASSION today!

Happy reading,



Another Virgin Moment

There are moments in every writer’s life that are super special. For me, they include . . .

. . . completing the draft of my very first book (a story that will NEVER be published – you may thank me with chocolate. . ..)

. . . having a fellow writer read that same story (who confirms it should never see the light of publication)

. . . writing another story (when I was so sure I didn’t have it in me) P1160877

. . . sending it off to a contest and taking first place (even though I was sure no one would want to read my stories)

. . . finally selling that book ten or eleven years later (I’ve honestly lost count!)

. . . and accepting my virgin white rose from my local RWA chapter for that sale (a sweetly surreal experience)

As I navigate through the world of publication, I look forward to sharing my virgin moments with you all. I’ve got some exciting news, but must wait a wee bit longer before I share. (Did anyone ever tell you that patience is a necessary trait in the publishing world? It’s sooo true!)

Meanwhile. . .

Happy reading, writing, and loving life,

Roses at Play

I’m so lucky to be part of an awesome RWA chapter, the Rose City Romance Writers. Not only are these gals (and guys!) some of the most supportive, creative, talented group of writers, they also know how to have fun. 🙂

As the Christmas season comes to a close, here are a few pics from our holiday get-together.

Our buffet table - NOM!
Our buffet table – NOM!
Love that smile, Susan Lute!
Love that smile, Susan Lute!
Delilah Marvelle proudly displays her tummy tuck!
Delilah Marvelle proudly displays her tummy tuck!
Jessa Slade autographs her book as a gift to one of my day job peeps.
Jessa Slade autographs her book as a gift to one of my day job peeps.
Collette Cameron, Jessa, and Delilah - one of several poses that day. :-)
Collette Cameron, Jessa, and Delilah – one of several poses that day.
The lovely Anna Brentwood with her debut book, The Songbird with Sapphire Eyes.
The lovely Anna Brentwood with her debut book, The Songbird with Sapphire Eyes.
The wonderfully talented Betty Booher and me. We finally did some catching up!
The wonderfully talented Betty Booher and me. We finally did some catching up!

Sometimes, things get so intense that we forget that writing, like life, should be fun, and the creative process a discovery of self as much as storytelling. On this particular day, taking the time to talk shop, family, challenges, and just being together did wonders for re-filling the creative well. Love when that happens!

So this year, one of my personal challenges will be to take some time out to hang with my fellow roses!

Enjoy life,